DOC investigating inmate death, fifth in-custody death reported so far this year

By: - August 7, 2023 5:55 pm

The John J. Moran Medium Security Facility at the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston houses male inmates and has 1,186 beds, the highest number of any facility at the ACI. (Rhode Island Department of Corrections website)

CRANSTON — The Rhode Island Department of Corrections (DOC) announced Monday that it is investigating the death of an inmate that occurred on Aug. 2.

DOC spokesperson J.R. Ventura said in a statement that Cranston rescue was called the morning of Aug. 2 at the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI) medium-security facility and the inmate was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. The preliminary report states an underlying condition was a contributing factor.

The DOC declined to release the inmate’s name.

Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), a Providence-based social justice advocacy group, said an incarcerated person at the medium-security prison told them that the now-dead inmate should not have been placed in the top bunk.

“[They] had medical issues and was on the top bunk when he should have been placed on the bottom bunk,” the unnamed inmate said. “He had a seizure and fell off the bunk and died, at least that’s the word from guys in the block.” 

He also alleged that the cellmate of the now-dead prisoner kept banging on the door to get the attention of a correctional officer, but “they did not come for quite a while.”

The Aug. 2 death is the fifth reported by the DOC this year, Ventura said. Brian Rodenas, who had just one year left on his six-year sentence, was found dead from an apparent suicide in his cell in disciplinary confinement on May 2.

In April, 64-year old Carol Pona died of liver cancer after being held for three months after allegedly violating her probation. Pona died at the hospital hours after being released to Home Confinement, which Ventura said Tuesday  is not reported as an in-custody death (though Pona was still under DOC supervision).

The Department of Corrections has previously declined to release the names of the remaining individuals.

“This is unacceptable,” said Melonie Perez, a DARE staff organizer.

“The state clearly can’t ensure the safety of our loved ones while in their care,” she said. “Rhode Island needs to stop criminalizing our communities and work on reducing the incarcerated population.”  

The John J. Moran Medium Security Facility houses male inmates and has 1,186 beds, the highest number of any facility at the ACI.

This story has been updated to clarify the number of in-custody deaths reported by the Rhode Island Department of Corrections.


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Christopher Shea
Christopher Shea

Christopher Shea covers politics, the criminal justice system and transportation for the Rhode Island Current.